DON’T LOOK BACK by Karin Fossum

This week’s much loved crime novel is, fittingly, a European favourite from Karen Meek the founder of Euro Crime: a site for fans and would-be fans of British and European crime fiction.

The UK paperback cover (2003 edition)

The UK paperback cover (2003 edition)

Karin Fossum’s DON’T LOOK BACK was first published in English in 2002, translated by Felicity David, and despite many recommendations it was four years before I got round to it. Only then did I realise what I was missing.

DON’T LOOK BACK is the second in the Inspector Sejer series but the first to be translated, the first book, IN THE DARKNESS, was only translated and published last year (2012). DON’T LOOK BACK is an absorbing whodunnit with an “exotic” (at the time) small town Norwegian setting and introduces the widowed and very tall Konrad Sejer and his sidekick, the younger Jacob Skarre.

Fossum throws the reader off, both at the beginning and the end of the book as it at first seems that a very young girl has gone missing and is in great danger but in fact that is not the case. Several of my reading group had to be reassured that the plot was going somewhere different before carrying, on as child murder even in fiction is still a taboo. And the ending contains some ambiguity – which turns out, after reading more of her books, to be somewhat of a Fossum trademark.

A US hardcover edition

A US hardcover edition

DON’T LOOK BACK is the most traditional police procedural of Fossum’s Sejer books with later books delving more into the psychology of people, and crimes where ordinary people commit a crime or have an accident which leads to a cover-up and the truth must be revealed.

I thoroughly recommend this series, especially the earlier books if you are more into plots and the later books if you like character and the whys of people’s behaviour.

Maxine was a huge fan too. From her reviews for Euro Crime:

  • CALLING OUT FOR YOU: “One of the best crime novels of its year, undoubtedly.”
  • THE WATER’S EDGE “This is a wonderful book, short and haunting, and beautifully naturally translated. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.”
  • BLACK SECONDS: “Fossum seems to write two different kinds of novels: sensitive procedurals focusing on simple, everyday-crimes crimes (such as DON’T LOOK BACK and CALLING OUT FOR YOU), and psychological thrillers based on original and twisted conceits (like WHEN THE DEVIL HOLDS THE CANDLE). BLACK SECONDS is of the former type. It deals with a simple, unflashy crime, one that could (and does) happen anywhere. This sad simplicity adds to the strange power of her novels, with their achingly realistic crimes, and their achingly realistic victims, their relatives and neighbours.”

I hope that if you haven’t given Karin Fossum a try already, you’ll do so now.

This review was first published at Euro Crime in March 2007 (reproduced with the permission of the site owner)

Book Details:

author: Karin Fossum (learn more at wikipedia)
original language: Norwegian
translator: Felicity David
publication date (UK): 2002

Contributor Details:

Karen Meek is a librarian, started the Euro Crime website ten years ago, has been a judge for the CWA International Dagger award for several years and in her spare time blogs about YA fiction. At Euro Crime you’ll find reviews, author bios and just about anything else you could need to know about crime fiction set in Europe or by European authors.,